Exeter is an exciting and cultural hub and is a great destination for the summer holidays. You have the hustle and bustle of the city centre, a host of cultural attractions, loads of eateries and the quayside, where you can relax, people watch or have a go at some watersports. There’s so much to see and do while in Exeter, you might not have time to explore the wider area, but if you fancy seeing some of Devon’s beautiful beaches and more rural locations, here are five great places to visit all within easy reach of Exeter.
The Jurassic Coast
While in Exeter, you’re only a short distance from the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast, which starts (or ends, depending on who you ask) in Exmouth and continues along the coast towards Dorset.
From Exeter city centre, it is just half an hour by train (hop on at Exeter St David’s and it’s a direct route through to Exmouth), an hour by bus (you can pick up the number 57 at Exeter Bus station and get off at the Savoy Cinema in Exmouth) or half an hour by car. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you could even cycle from Exeter to the Jurassic Coast, it will take you around an hour to reach Exmouth seafront via the National Cycle Route 2.
The Jurassic Coast actually covers three geological periods of time, the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous and depending where along the coastline you go will depend how old the rocks are. As well as Exmouth, the towns of Sidmouth, Seaton and Budleigh Salterton and the villages of Beer and Branscombe are lovely places for a day trip outside of Exeter.
We’ve given you the coast and you’re already in the city, so why not explore some countryside? A visit to the Dartmoor National Park is a great way to truly experience Devon’s rural side.
Full of fascinating towns and villages, the iconic Dartmoor ponies, woodlands, tors and a host of atmospheric walks and cycle routes, Dartmoor is somewhere you can easily spend the whole day exploring. Depending where in Dartmoor you want to visit will depend on how long it will take you to travel from Exeter. You can reach areas like Buckfastleigh via car in around 40 minutes.
There are ways to get to Dartmoor via public transport, however you will need to make changes along the way, so check when buying tickets.
Some great spots to visit on Dartmoor include Whistman’s Woods, Burrator Reservoir, Bowerman’s Nose and Haytor.
The English Riviera
If you’re on the hunt for a traditional British seaside resort to escape to during your stay in Exeter, why not head down to the English Riviera? Loved by holiday makers for decades, the English Riviera gets its name from its mild climate and the various palm trees that line the streets.
From Exeter it is relatively easy to visit the premier towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, as well as some of the smaller nearby areas like Dawlish and Teignmouth. Because this area of Devon is popular with families, you’ll find a host of things to see and do here including piers, family friendly activities, theatres, gardens and more. It is also the former home of crime writer Agatha Christie and you’ll be able to spot nods to her books, as well as follow the Agatha Christie mile around places like Torquay.
Many of the towns across the English Riviera are on the main train network, so you can easily hop on a train in Exeter and reach Torquay, Paignton or Dawlish within half an hour. Alternatively, it is around 45 minutes to drive to the centre of Torquay. The National Cycle Route 2 will also connect you to the English Riviera from Exeter, but be aware that it is over 26 miles, so only really advisable for the fittest and most confident cyclists. While you’re in the English Riviera, be sure to stop by the village of Cockington for a chance to experience the Devon of yesteryear!
As we’ve given you two coastal options, here’s some more countryside for you to explore, this time heading towards the centre of the county. The Mid Devon region is where you’ll be able to fully immerse yourselves in rural charm and is a must visit for anyone who loves getting out and about. With a host of walking routes and picturesque places to stop for a picnic, Mid Devon provides the perfect escape of the hustle and bustle of the city.
One place we recommend in the Mid Devon region is Tiverton where you can find the Grand Tiverton Canal, home to one of the only remaining horse drawn barges in the UK and which is relatively easy to reach from Exeter city centre. You can drive to the town in less than half an hour or there are buses and trains between the two that will get you there in less than an hour.
This region of Devon has some spectacular country homes to explore, as well as attractions that hark back to the industrial revolution making it an interesting and unique place to visit.
Exeter isn’t the only city in Devon, the other, Plymouth can be found at the south end of Devon and is known as Britain’s Ocean City. It is famous for its maritime history and many of the buildings and streets, much like Exeter, date back to Roman times. Though both cities, Exeter and Plymouth are very different and both are well worth a visit. If you have the time, it is just an hour to travel between the two.
As you might expect, you can reach Plymouth from Exeter by train, which will take around an hour, or you can drive it in the same amount of time using the Devon Express Way. If you really feel up for a challenge, there are several circular cycle routes which connect Exeter and Plymouth, but to complete the entire thing would take you around 10 hours! You can use the National Cycle Route 2 or Route 27 which will take you through some incredibly picturesque places.